Hidden Art 1989 – 2011

What began in 1994 with a small open studios event, intended to promote quality work by 43 Hackney-based designer-makers, developedinto the unique network that is Hidden Art. Over 3000 designer-makers have been promoted and supported. Innovative and important links have been built between the creative and manufacturing industries and their clients.

Click here to see a detailed Hidden Art Timeline.

The Membership Scheme

Hidden Art members enjoyed privileged access to Hidden Art events and services, plus encouraged participation in its initiatives.

Here’s how some of the Hidden Art Member’s feel they benefited from our Services…

 “I am indebted to Hidden Art for all the support they have given me as a London designer. I don’t think I would have got anywhere without the e-shop, promotions, press and consultancy sessions. I believe I would have graduated from my textile design degree with perhaps only a hobby to show for it. But Hidden Art has helped turn my skills into a business and that kind of help can only benefit everyone.” Nadia Sheltawy, Textile Designer, London. http://www.nadiasheltawy.co.uk/

 “As a recent graduate living in and working in Cornwall, Hidden Art has provided me with a platform to showcase my work amongst the highest quality of design. Before the Design Fair came to Cornwall, we had no other show that attracted this quality of designers and indeed clients. Hidden Art also provides us with invaluable links with London and beyond that are so vital when living in the sticks.” Victoria Louise Walker, Jewellery Designer, Cornwall. http://www.damsonjewellery.co.uk/designers/victoria-walker.html

 “I have been a member since I moved to Hackney from college in 1997 and have used the services of Hidden Art from exhibiting to advice, networking and simply being a member of a community. The organisation has been supportive from the beginning of my career and continued to be no less valid all these years later as my business has developed and diversified” Sarah Kay of Kay & Stemmer, Furniture Designers, London. http://www.kay-stemmer.com/

Testimonials: Celebrations and Lamentations

Here is a collection of some of the messages Hidden Art and its CEO, Dieneke Ferguson, received from some of its members and associates.  Please visit their websites to see their work and read more about them as designers and designer-makers.

So much creativity and industry goes to waste as a result of talented, entrepreneurial and innovative people failing on the last hurdle- the ability to organise, market and plan their business in the way that Hidden Art has demonstrated. This organisation provides a template for the type of platforms that the government should support to help kick start the British economy. Tom Dixon http://www.tomdixon.net/

Hidden Art is an always reliable treasure trove of emerging, exciting talent in a country that is renowned for one of the best art and design education systems in the world, playing a significant role in converting raw creativity into internationally recognised commercial success. With no comparative organisation the demise of Hidden Art would be a loss to the re-vitalisation of the East End of London as well as to Britain’s design industry. Naomi Cleaver http://www.naomicleaver.com/

Dear Dieneke and all at Hidden Art, I am horrified to hear that there is a possibility that HA is under threat.

Having been there at the birth of the whole project, and having watched it grow and blossom as a fabulous support network for makers and designers of the area… seeing it help to put Hackney on the map, its a travesty in that it is now under threat.

With the fact that Dalston is now reported the most ‘trendy’ place to be in the whole of Europe at present, can’t the powers that be see that Hidden Art has played a large part in establishing this fact, and will now be able to support an ever strengthening network of designer makers who can enjoy this long established and valuable facility.

As with Wapping, when artists colonized the area, they rejuvenated it to a buzzing centre for the arts, full of life, when the artists were driven away by rising real estate value, it lost its buzz and life… Hackney must have the foresight to value the presence of the arts as a permanent valuable activity and must work to maintain this reputation for the highest density of artists per square mile in Europe.  A core agency, with its finger on the pulse, to help broadcast this fact, and these extraordinary and rare skills are essential to the area, and should not be closed. It should in fact be financed more so that it can push into the second decade of this century with a boost of money to arm it for its future, to broadcast to the world of this extraordinary and valuable asset to the city. Kate Malonehttp://www.katemaloneceramics.com/



I have been a member of Hidden Art for over 10 years and would like to carry on being part of this fantastic network for the next 10 years!
In my experience no other organisation offers the level of relevant and tailored support, advice and sign posting, exhibiting + selling opportunities and networking opportunities with fellow designers and design industry leaders alike. All of this is driven and delivered by the inspirational and committed Dieneke Ferguson and her dynamic, friendly and efficient team.
I am so grateful for the countless ways that Hidden Art has helped me, which I hope will continue…..
It was through Hidden Art that I discovered the disused empty shops on Broadway Market during Open Studios in 1997 and managed to negotiate and secure a tenancy on one of them, opening ‘Fabrications’ – now a thriving hub of creativity and business.
It was through Hidden Art that I gained access to a local creative network of other designer makers who generously gave me first hand advise and helped me stock my shop with items on SOR, collaborate and deliver workshops with, many of whom have also become good friends!
It is through Hidden Art I receive the advice, guidance, confidence and importantly the business and profile raising opportunities that I needed for my business to grow and flourish from a start up to 10 years on.

Hidden Art not only has helped designer makers but has been a key player in contributing to the vibrancy and flourishing of East London as a cultural quarter, which has benefited many! I hope any funders / sponsors / patrons out there recognise this and come to the rescue! Barley Massey http://fabrications1.co.uk/

I was very upset to hear about the threat of closure to Hidden Art and the loss of staff – all of whom I have got to know well over the years. I’ve been a member of Hidden Art since 2004 when I started to think about setting up a design business. In the past six years the opportunities and support received from Hidden Art have been second to none.

And not only my business; many of my creative peers have had the same help and one-to-one support – always delivered with impartiality and professionalism.

In 2005 I launched the commercial side of my business with Hidden Art when I showed in Milan as part Design London and without that initial bursary I wouldn’t otherwise have had that opportunity. At the end of 2005 I won Hidden Art’s Most Active Member award and had notched up not only Milan but exhibited with Hidden Art in Cornwall and selected, via Hidden Art’s brokerage, to design products for the Big Chill’s festival merchandise. More recently I designed two products for Hidden Art Select, in 2007 and 2008, and won the Press Award 2009. Not to mention bursaries to show at East London Design Show and many other events and training opportunities.

I can honestly say that without Hidden Art’s support, training and guidance – especially in those first two to three years – my business wouldn’t be where it is today. And it’s not only my creative business. I’ve seen with excitement at how many other designers have risen to success and gained press and recognition via the e-shop and other support programmes that you have run.

So, Dieneke, all this hard work and sheer dedication, on your part, cannot come to an end because, if Hidden Art closes its doors many small creative businesses will cease to get off the ground. And that would be a great loss to London’s creative industries and to the rest of us members who still look to Hidden Art for continued friendship and support.

So please, if any of the funding authorities read this – help SAVE Hidden Art and secure the future of some of the UK’s most creative talents and upcoming design businesses that the UK has to offer. Michelle Masonhttp://www.michellemason.co.uk/


I’m really sad to hear the news. It would be a tragic loss to independent British design if Hidden Art were to close. Speaking as a member of Hidden Art for the last 5 years, I can honestly say that we would never have achieved what we have with Scene if it wasn’t for the support and opportunities given to us by Hidden Art. We still value the advice, opportunities and initiatives we get to be involved in and have learnt so much professionally and made invaluable contacts in the design scene and with other designers. We are in awe of Hidden Arts achievements and evolution over the last 20 years. I really really do hope that you will be able to continue to make your mark for the next 20 years at least. Gemma Fabbri, Scene Design http://www.scenedesign.co.uk/

I have been a member since I moved to Hackney from college in 1997 and have used the services of Hidden Art from exhibiting to advice, networking and simply being a member of a community. The organisation has been supportive from the beginning of my career and continued to be no less valid all these years later as my business has developed and diversified, including my partnership with Andrea Stemmer. It’s a invaluable resource and one of the things that keeps Hackney special and in the spotlight. Sarah Kay, Kay & Stemmerhttp://www.kay-stemmer.com/

I have grown my career alongside Hidden Art. In 1990 I joined Hackney Contemporaries as a designer/ maker, the first venture of Dieneke Ferguson to promote craft and design in hackney,  and then have been a member of hidden art ever since. Hidden Art has contributed hugely to the enormous culture and diversity of East London as we see it today and continues to do so. It provides a platform for learning and sharing skills and tools to promote small creative businesses that form such a vital part in any thriving community. Hidden Art is of uttermost importance to make creativity happen on the ground locally and globally. Andrea Stemmer, Kay & Stemmerhttp://www.kay-stemmer.com/

Hidden Art has been an inspiration to people working across design in London since it started. It is a groundbreaking organisation – the type London is proud to have. Its potential demise would be a severe blow to London’s design ecology and a sad day for design promoters here, and across the world. William Knight, of the London Design Festival

Hidden Art has been instrumental in its guidance and support to the early development of my business.  Not only has it helped to build my profile, educate me about my industry, and offered me much needed advice, but it has also generated a continued and constant stream of sales helping my business to grow. Jake Phipps http://www.jakephipps.com/

Hidden Art is a unique organisation that has helped me to grow my business in a huge variety of ways.

It’s provided extremely valuable advice, support, training and learning opportunities.   The exhibitions that I’ve attended with them have given me great sales opportunities and press exposure within a supportive environment and at an affordable price when my business was starting up.

Hidden Art connects me to a large network of resources, and importantly, people who share a similar working experience. Snowden Floodhttp://www.snowdenflood.com/


To lose Hidden Art would be an absolute tragedy not only for it’s members but for London, it brings together and provides a platform for all that is best in the craft and design world, in this exceptionally talented and creative part of the UK.

Hidden art have helped me through their design shows, support, activities and website / e-shop, but it is the thousands intangible connections and friendships that I have made through hidden art over the last five years that have dramatically changed my life, business and work.

The loss of hidden art would be a tragic loss financially and culturally to the east end of London, along with the infinite opportunities it provides. Chris Duffy http://www.duffylondon.com/

We write to describe the relatively small, yet absolutely crucial role Hidden Art played in our company start-up. Our creative career began when we choose to move from our fine art training into the design industry. Being sure of our creative offering, yet ignorant of the design industry and how best to present ourselves to it, we were fortunate to be included in ‘Design London’, an exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair, produced by Hidden Art. The show punched far above its weight, with innovative exhibition design, great attendance and critical acclaim and it brought us a number of very significant opportunities and provided a great education and introduction to the design industry.

It is also of note that since the show was not entirely free to the participating makers, being only sponsored in part, it meant we needed to find some of our own funding to take part. We therefore also had a say as a group in the way the show was designed and promoted and we witnessed and contributed to the promotional and organisational work done by Hidden Art, which itself was a great education. This generated a sense of real commercial activity and investment in the participants and gave an understanding of the kind of costs involved in promoting oneself on the international stage. In short it was a very successful and well aimed leg up, not a free ride and it managed to promote both the participants work and the London design scene at the same time.

Within a couple of years of this event we were selling limited edition design works to galleries in Milan and Tokyo, had gained further opportunities to exhibit internationally and had gathered great press recognition. Some of these opportunities were directly related to Hidden Art’s support and all were in part attributable to the self confidence and excitement that Hidden Art had engendered in us.

We also received one other opportunity through Hidden Art, being awarded a commission to produce an interactive design work for their annual symposium: a very valuable learning experience that enabled us to test a potentially commercial idea.

However we should explain that after these opportunities we did not take much further part as a Hidden Art member, since our goal was to head away from designer-making toward designing for industry and working with international galleries at the very highest level. We are delighted to say we are achieving that goal and have been constantly in work delivering designs to some major international brands, which has brought foreign currency to the UK as well as gained international critical acclaim for our London based company. This path, from designer-making to solely designing or giving design consultancy, is one taken by many creatives, who begin by hand crafting, simply as a way of demonstrating their aesthetic in the absence of a chance to design for others. But because the subsequent successes of such an endeavour necessarily take place without Hidden Art, it therefore becomes important that companies such as ours declare the crucial role Hidden Art’s services played right at the beginning of the unpredictable chain of events that is a business start up. We are very keen that this type of support, which Hidden Art offered so well, does not go unnoticed and that it is clear that the more visible, small-scale craft business is not the only part of the creative sector Hidden Art supports.

We would also like to add that we have returned to give talks to Hidden Art members several times over the past years, being glad to have the opportunity to share our experience with their members. We believe this kind of networking is a great thing for UK craft and design and helps valuable information about successfully negotiating the commercial realities of this industry to pass from one generation of young businesses to another, thus enriching the intelligence of the sector and allowing a quicker conversion from creative experimenting to commercial viability. Without such organisations as Hidden Art, a crucial link between being a creative graduate and becoming a creative business person will go unsupported, wasting so much investment made by creative students, universities and self taught craft practitioners, who may find themselves unable to convert their education and enthusiasm into a viable business. Clare and Harry Richardson of Committee http://www.gallop.co.uk/

Hidden art has played a central part in my development as a designer maker, It would have been a very lonely experience without the guidance and enthusiasm of Hidden Art,  through their seminars and talks, hearing the experience of others, being inspired by their stories of how they became successful, meeting other creative people who are on similar journeys.

For me Hidden Art turned small dreams into opened doors of what is possible.

Hidden Art was and is an inspiration – it would be a great loss. Jonathan Field http://www.jonathanfield.co.uk/

I know I would definitely not be in the position I am today without them and I am sure I will need their help and knowledge in the future. Kirsty Whyte, PureWhyte Designs http://www.kirstywhyte.com/web/

I was very lucky to receive an award from you in 2009. Hidden Art have helped me immensely with contacts, advice and show casing my work. I am very sad to hear that you may not be able to carry on supporting UK designer makers. Hidden Art have helped me to develop my work and I would not be where I today without that help. Anna Bullus http://annabullus.com/

I think it is outrageous that Hidden Art is going to close. I have been a member since 1997 and it has really helped my business grow over the years. Losing Hidden Art would the equivalent of losing access to a major library or college. Hidden Art have helped me in so many different ways and the team really have their finger on the needs of small businesses and what will help them grow. Loose Hidden Art and you are potentially loosing a whole generation of new British design talent. Liz Emtage http://www.lizemtageceramics.com/

As a member since 2003, you and the whole H.A team alongside the networking sessions, made it possible for me to be running the successful and sustainable ceramic business that I do today – and not many can say that in this tough climate I’m sure!

With the help of Hidden Art, I fast tracked my knowledge and opportunities in the design world, successfully exhibiting at 100% Design 2003 with H.A. With your direct help, I then secured a substantial grant from Hackney Council for start up businesses, without which I would not have been able to become such a professional business in such a short space of time.

Alongside these major opportunities that kick started me, in 2004 I went on to secure funding to be able to be mentored by Dr Rachel Smart, another reason why I am still in business today. This was made possible by my attendance of networking sessions and being alerted to the right people to be around, at the right stage of my business.

By 2005 I was then imparting my knowledge and experiences to others entering the creative world via Hidden Art, and so this cycle has continued year in, year out with other designer/makers.

I can see the impact of Hidden Art closure rippling around many key events and shows in London, and I can see this taking place too rapidly in 2011 if the LDA were to pull their support and not enough funding was replaced from elsewhere.

What do they expect to happen to all the people who need this help and support? Will they provide another service? I cannot see this happening and would clearly not see the point. Helen Johannessen http://www.yoyoceramics.co.uk/

I am devastated to hear about the situation that has arisen with regards to the future of Hidden Arts funding.   Hidden Art have played a direct role in the development of my own design development and career via the many forms of support and promotion that it offers, and I know I am not the only one by far.   The support you have offered over the years has been constant and invaluable and I sincerely hope you can find a way of carrying on with your work that is so immensely beneficial to all who are involved. Giles Miller http://www.gilesmiller.com/

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